My Name is Lucy Barton
By Elizabeth Strout
Random House Trade Paperbacks, 9780812979527, October 2016, 240pp.
The Short of It:
Trauma takes many forms.
The Rest of It:
Lucy Barton is hospitalized for an unknown illness which has taken a bad turn. An infection, most likely. Her short hospital stay turns into several days which prompts her mother to show up at the hospital. Lucy’s husband William is at home with their children, but he, for whatever reason does not like hospital visits and decides not to come. Instead, he pays for Lucy’s mom to show up.
This, in itself is strange. Lucy and her mother have a strange relationship to say the least. Growing up in poverty, and being exposed to some strange behavior has caused damage that Lucy does her best to live with, but it’s always there and from her hospital bed she carefully observes her mother at the foot of her bed, wondering how they got there.
There’s not a lot of action in this story. It’s mostly a “thinking” story. As Lucy considers the life she’s lived, you as the reader will also consider the choices you’ve made as a wife, mother, sibling. From the outside looking in, it’s clear that this family has a lot of things to work through but do they want to? In Lucy’s case, yes because she is trying not to repeat the same mistakes with her own children but you get the impression that she’s not succeeding all that well.
We read this for book club and although it wasn’t enjoyed by all, it gave us plenty to talk about. There are two other books by this author that include the same characters, Anything is Possible, Oh William! and Lucy by the Sea which just came out. I liked the book enough to pick up the other books but it’s definitely not a happy story and a little sad here and there.
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